Personal connections on social media drive more consumer purchases than influencers, Mintel research reveals

September 28, 2023

Indian consumers are more inclined to be influenced by people they know personally on social media when making purchasing decisions, according to the latest research by Mintel.

While urban consumers show a preference for online influencers, with 28% relying on them compared to 19% of the total sample, they are more heavily influenced by social media posts from people they know across various categories like clothing and accessories (51%), dining out (33%), and household items (31%).

This trend is not exclusive to urban areas. In Tier 3 cities, a significant 67% of consumers have not made purchases based on online influencers’ recommendations in the last six months through May 2023. Mintel research suggests that despite engaging with online influencers, consumers in low-tier cities remain unconvinced when making purchase decisions.

Urban Gen Z and Millennials draw inspiration from sports and entertainment celebs

However, in urban settings, an affinity toward sports celebrities has emerged due to the increasing preference for an active lifestyle, particularly for Gen Z and Millennials. In the past six months, two in five women (40%) and men (36%) aged 18-34 have made clothing and accessory purchases based on influencer recommendations. Notably, nearly four in 10 (39%) men aged 18-34 who follow influencer advice favour sports celebrities over entertainment celebrities.

“When developing their social media marketing strategy, it’s critical for brands to consider consumers’ preferences, whether they’re targeting young men who admire sports stars for their lifestyle and fashion choices, or young women who tend to look up to entertainment celebrities and movie stars for fashion inspiration,” said Saptarshi Banerjee, Senior Lifestyle Analyst, Mintel Reports India.

Women aged 18-44, particularly those between the ages of 35 and 44, show a significant inclination toward entertainment celebrities. Nearly two in five (37%) female followers of such celebrities say they purchase beauty and grooming products based on online influencers’ recommendations, compared to 24% of female consumers from the total sample who are active on social media platforms.

“The influence of celebrities in social media extends beyond beauty and grooming to a wide range of lifestyle categories, including clothing and accessories, dining out and shopping for household items such as furniture and home décor.

“Our research indicates that sports celebrities influence urban consumers, in particular, while urban females find inspiration in media celebrities’ lifestyles. Brands can leverage the aspirational appeal of these celebrities, combining it with the broad reach of micro and nano influencers to craft compelling and authentic influencer marketing campaigns,” continued Banerjee.

Authenticity and the rise of micro and nano influencers

Consumer awareness is growing regarding the financial gains that drive online influencers, with 24% of metro consumers (compared to 18% of the total sample) feeling that most influencers are untrustworthy. This has underscored the importance of authenticity and trust in successful influencer marketing campaigns.

Moreover, 33% of those distrustful of online influencers believe that social media influencers with fewer followers are more authentic than those with massive followings. “The increasing distrust of online influencers with massive followings highlights the growing relevance of micro and nano influencers* as they are seen to be more relatable and approachable than their more famous counterparts, thus garnering greater trust from consumers,” noted Banerjee.

Furthermore, nearly half (47%) of consumers are drawn to influencers who are knowledgeable, easily accessible and foster a personal connection with their audience. Additionally, authentic reviews in conjunction with humorous content can be instrumental in connecting with 56% of consumers, according to Mintel research.

“Consumers who immerse themselves in social media platforms are often drawn to content that speaks directly to their everyday concerns in an amusing and captivating manner. In this time of uncertainty, humour provides a much-needed reprieve and is thus a particularly attractive form of content,” added Banerjee.

YouTube: The most popular platform

Across generations, YouTube is the most widely used social media platform among Gen Z (87%), Millennials (72%) and Gen X (47%). Despite Gen Z’s reputation for tech-savviness, their usage of the two most popular social media platforms, YouTube and Facebook, has only marginally surpassed that of Younger Millennials aged 27-33 (by 10% and 4%, respectively)—underscoring Millennial’s frequent use of social media.

Notably, 21% of Older Millennials aged 34-42 (compared to 16% of the total sample) actively engage with brands on social media platforms, highlighting the growing significance of these platforms for this generation. A majority of them follow brands on Facebook and Instagram, emphasizing the value of maintaining a presence on these platforms.

“Facebook can be a great platform for brands to keep older Millennials up to date with the latest industry trends and product announcements, while Instagram can be used to create visually appealing and unique engagements.

“Additionally, only half of Gen X have been active on social media in the last six months, while 70% of Baby Boomers have not used social media in the same time period, making them less suitable for online influencer marketing,” concluded Banerjee.

Note to editors:
*Micro-influencers (10k-100k followers) and nano influencers (<10k followers)

Additional research on Indian consumer attitudes toward influencers and interviews with the analyst are available upon request from the Mintel Press Office. For those interested in purchasing the full report, please visit the Mintel Store.

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